Blue Nile patas monkey

Erythrocebus poliophaeus is a purported species of Old World monkey found in Africa along the Blue Nile river valley in Ethiopia and Sudan. While first described in 1862, it was synonymized with the patas monkey in 1927. A 2017 study reclassified it as a distinct species.[1][2][3] It has the identical distinctive hair on its the face as the nominate patas monkey, resembling a handlebar moustache.[4]

Blue Nile patas monkey
Erythrocebus poliophaeus 2.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Suborder: Haplorhini
Infraorder: Simiiformes
Family: Cercopithecidae
Genus: Erythrocebus
E. poliophaeus
Binomial name
Erythrocebus poliophaeus


Patas monkey classification was questioned by Gippoliti in 2017, who claimed that previous taxonomic decisions were based on a single type specimen. The first widely adopted taxonomy was created by Schwartz through his research in 1927. All Erythrocebus monkeys were classified into three subspecies: patas, pyrrhonotus and baumstarki, creating a monotypic genus.[3]

The type specimen of poliophaeus was originally collected in Darfur, western Sudan (far from the Blue Nile), according to the animal dealer the specimen came from. It had a somewhat lighter coat than the standard form, and was hence given a separate species status in a 1862 book by Heinrich Gottlieb Ludwig Reichenbach.[5]

Erythrocebus subspecies were originally classified by their nose colour. Around 1974, it was noticed that nose colour could actually change due to age or physiology, which meant that upholding the separate status of the different subspecies was no longer justified, although for many the previous classification was left unchanged.[3] Conventionally, the subspecies are distinguished by facial hair and skin colour. Like the nominate form of patas monkey, this form has white hairs on upper lip hair which forms the shape of a handlebar moustache. In subspecies baumstarki, this moustache is black. Both the nominate form and ssp. baumstarki have all-black noses, whereas this form has a white spot on the nose.[4] In 2017 Gippoliti resurrected E. poliophaeus as a separate species based on the above characteristics of pyrrhonotus, which according to him restricted the taxon to eastern Al Qadarif and Sennar wilayati and neighbouring edges of Ethiopia, based largely on scant photographic evidence. Gippoliti also considers his restriction of the taxon to this area to be a characteristic of the taxon, which he then bases the taxon on. Other reasons given for the taxonomic change is to attract attention and perhaps funding to these monkeys, and by chopping off taxa from the otherwise common and legally tradable patas monkey, and declaring them endangered, taxonomy could be used for conservation purposes.[3]

Gippoliti proposed to name his new species with common names Heuglin's patas monkey or the Blue Nile patas monkey.[3]

Conventionally, researchers apply ssp. pyrrhonotus to all patas monkeys from northeastern Africa, including Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. Gippoliti restricts the name poliophaeus from those populations found in northwestern Ethiopia and eastern Sudan, although he also provisionally resurrects the taxon formosa subsumed as a subspecies of poliophaeusfor monkeys from southwestern Ethiopia and Uganda -based on a photo and anecdotes, these animals might have somewhat darker coats than those found somewhat further north, and may often lack the white nose which characterises this taxon. Gippoliti also raises ssp. pyrrhonotus and baumstarki to the level of species in passing, without detailing any taxonomic motivations.[3]

Blue Nile River


  1. ^ Rincon, Paul (2018). "Moustached monkey is separate species". BBC News. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
  2. ^ "150 years after being discovered, African monkey with handlebar moustache becomes its own species". 16 March 2018. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Gippoliti, Spartaco (2017). "On the Taxonomy of Erythrocebus with a Re-evaluation of Erythrocebus poliophaeus (Reichenbach, 1862) from the Blue Nile Region of Sudan and Ethiopia" (PDF). Primate Conservation. 31: 53–59. ISSN 2162-4232. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  4. ^ a b Autin, Beth. "LibGuides: Patas Monkey (Erythrocebus patas) Fact Sheet: Physical Characteristics". Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  5. ^ Reichenbach, Ludwig Heinrich Gottlieb (1862). Die vollständigste Naturgeschichte der Affen (in German). Dresden. pp. 122–123. doi:10.5962/bhl.title.103149.